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 Forum index » DIY Hardware and Software
What CAD Software?
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Cynosure
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 1:18 pm    Post subject: What CAD Software? Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I want to get some PCB's done and they are asking for the schematic in a CAD file. AutoCAD Electrical was is over $5,000 on their website.

What is a good app for creating schematics that are CAD files?

Will they all have a good component library in them like ExpressSCH does?
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PickNick



Joined: Oct 16, 2009
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 1:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

hi Cynosure!

try KiCad:
http://www.kicad-pcb.org

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JovianPyx



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PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 2:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I am acutely interested in this subject as well.

One of the issues that I have read about elsewhere (synth-diy email forum) is that many/most/all the free stuff has limitations regarding board size as well as layer count and other features. Some have issues with sensible routing and that there can be a good deal of trial and error work such as some routes are best manually created and then let the auto router do the rest (given that partial autoroute is even possible). To ground plane or not to ground plane, etc.

Soooo - (and I am a noob of zero experience) - what I think I would appreciate as would many others would be some help with rating the various systems. I've heard about Eagle as well as KiCad, but as I said - I am the noobest of noobs and I'd like to bypass as much of the angst as possible before getting started. (realize that I am an old man and wish to get some things accomplished before I meet my maker)... (just kidding, I'm not ready to die any time soon, but I am an old fart for sure) Cool

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Dougster



Joined: Sep 20, 2005
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 4:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Well, since one of my projects over the last three years was writing a book on using EAGLE, I'll poke my nose in here. Laughing

There are a lot of tools out there, and there is quite a bit of religion as well. (The gospel of open source above all else? The gospel of EAGLE?)

OK, lets start with licensing. EAGLE has several licenses. The free version of EAGLE lets you make relatively small (80x100mm, something like 3" by 4") two sided boards. This is what everybody complains about. When you hear about how lousy the free tools are, this is it. If you want to use EAGLE for more than two layers or you want to make larger boards, you have to pay for a license. For me, I wanted to work with a relatively large (11"x 16") PCB, so I bought the top of the line "Professional" version of EAGLE. That currently costs $1640. You tightwad hobbyists Razz out there probably just passed out, but that $1640 gets you a really decent package that competes with other tools that are considerably more expensive.

Now, there are a couple other tools worthy of consideration. Kicad and gEDA are both free suites of tools. They both allow large multi-layer PCBs to be made. IMHO, they aren't as nice to use as EAGLE, but they are free.

There are a lot of other factors to consider. A big one for me is work flow. So, you might choose to create a schematic and then convert that schematic into a PCB. With EAGLE, the schematic and board layout programs are connected together and do both forward- and back-annotation. That means that if you modify parameters on the schematic, the changes show up on the board, and if you change certain parameters on the board, the schematic will be automatically updated with that information. This is very cool and will save lots of time and effort!

On the other hand, Kicad and gEDA do not do back-annotation. It's a one-way trip from schematic to board. If you want to change anything about the design, you have to change the schematic and then update the board. (For you programmers out there, I'll generalize and say that you have what I would call a "compile" step.) As you work with the board again and see that something needs to be updated, again, you have to go back to the schematic, modify it, then update the board.

There is one big advantage to the Kicad and gEDA method though. Since it's a one-way work flow, you can easily use one schematic as the source for more than one board layout. Version 6 of EAGLE has taken some steps to make this easier, but the basic architecture of EAGLE really connects the schematic and board designs, so it isn't as easy. If you're not going to make multiple different board layouts for each schematic, it doesn't matter...

This is getting pretty long, and I have other things I need to do, so in conclusion I'll suggest that if you have the money and you want a full-fledged schematic capture and board layout package, spend the money on EAGLE. If you don't have any money, don't waste your time being upset about the limitations of the free version of EAGLE, just grab Kicad or gEDA and start learning how they work...

Regards,
Doug

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diablojoy



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PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 11:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Yeah I found the the free version of eagle too limited as well, but it was nice to use once i had it figured out
didnt like KIcad much
here's another to try out - FreePCB
This is whart i am using now
No schematic , no auto route-yay , though you can get an add on for that -just dont !.
footprints are quick and easy to create or modify
but navigation over the board area is a bit clunky
I use it by doing a schematic in express sch and print it . then type in my net lists directly , works for me for now until i find something better, main bonus - there are no board limitations

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Cynosure
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 05, 2013 12:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Thanks for all the feedback. I would assume that the manufacturer is using Eagle, so I will use that for compatibility.

I found a tutorial series that makes it pretty easy to get started.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qG0O9LKH-_E

There are some oddities in the software that makes the tutorial very useful (like every function having its own tool).
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Dougster



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PostPosted: Sat Jan 05, 2013 3:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Cynosure wrote:
There are some oddities in the software that makes the tutorial very useful (like every function having its own tool).

One thing to remember is that EAGLE is designed so that you choose a tool and apply it to some part of your design, then apply it to the next part. Then you choose a different tool and use it for a while. It's not really optimized for choosing a group of parts and then applying an action to that group, if you take my distinction...

I think it helps to remember that you can type in every command in EAGLE. It's almost like the GUI was an extra thing that was added later after the commands were programmed. It also helps to train yourself to use the scroll wheel for zooming and panning. After a short time, I think you'll find a good combination of mouse and typed commands that will be really fast. If you find yourself doing a series of commands over and over, you can put them in a script file, and you can assign commands to keys in the eagle.scr file. (Open the script tab in the main EAGLE window to find it.)

Later, after you're more comfortable with the program, you can learn to write ULPs, which are programs that generate and run scripts. Yes, it's a bit silly to write a program to write a program, but it is really powerful and you can do a lot of things with it. For example, I wrote a ULP that produces a list of parts for each separate schematic sheet in a design. This is easier than outputting one big bill of materials and then trying to sort it in a spreadsheet...

Regards,
Doug

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